If the Mohun Bagan stands wore a deserted look after the team lost to Mahindra United in the IFA Shield final back, the buzz was back on the eve of their Federation Cup final. And the one person responsible for the change is Bhaichung Bhutia.
This is one trophy that the India skipper is yet to win. And standing between him and the title — and a place in next season's AFC Cup — is Sporting Clube de Goa. This is the second successive Federation Cup final for the Goan champions, who lost to Mahindra United in the last edition at home.
Bagan have dominated the tournament for long, reaching the final 15 times and winning 11. But Sporting coach Clifford Chukwuma is not worried, despite the fact that they have lost both their previous meetings to Bagan. "This is a different tournament and tomorrow is a new day," Chukwuma said. "We have played well, the boys have worked hard and if they manage to play their own game, we will win," he added.
"We are all entertainers. If we do not provide entertainment then people won't come to the stadium. So I have asked my boys to go out into the middle and enjoy the game and play it with heart," said the Nigerian, who has spent four seasons with the club.
Bagan, meanwhile, can bank on the consistency factor, reaching back-to-back finals. "It's good we are reaching the final. We reached the semifinal of the Durand Cup as well. This shows we are improving. We are trying to be consistent," said captain Jose Ramirez Barreto.
But the hosts would be concerned about losing Eduardo Coleho to injury and Sanjib Maria and Dipak Mondal also unavailable. "Efforts are on to get both of them fit," said Brazilian physio-cum-coach Robson Mattos Oliviera.